By Joseph Willits
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At PMQs today, David Cameron was asked about the decision by all Liberal Democrat MPs to collectively defy a three-line whip, and abstain from voting on a motion defending Cameron's EU treay veto. Although Cameron didn't elaborate further on the Liberal Democrat position, he did express his gratitude to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who had decided to table the motion due to the veto being in the "vital interest" of the British people.
Yesterday morning, Nick Clegg had said that Liberal Democrat MPs should vote in favour of the motion, but swiftly did a u-turn in the evening and ordered them to abstain. Only one Liberal Democrat MP, Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) spoke at the debate, saying the outcome of the Brussels summit was "not a good one". Horwood also attacked eurosceptic Tory MPs, saying:
"The process is still a long way from complete and there are quite a few obstacles in its path, some of them sitting in this Chamber, I think."
The motion, which was passed by 270 votes to 200, was tabled by Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds, who stated:
"This House commends the Prime Minister on his refusal at the European Council to sign up to a Treaty without safeguards for the UK; regards the use of the veto in appropriate circumstances to be a vital means of defending the national interests of the UK; and recognises the desire of the British people for a rebalancing of the relationship with our European neighbours based on co-operation and mutually beneficial economic arrangements.
In the debate, the DUP were praised by Tory MP Bill Cash, who said:
"This is a good moment to place on record the fact that the Democratic Unionist party has played a stalwart role in this whole business from the beginning. That needs to be put on the record, as part of the historic tribute that needs to be paid to that party in this matter."
This morning, another Tory MP Peter Bone went further and suggested that the Liberal Democrats should be replaced as Coalition partners by the DUP:
"Last night, we had the DUP for us and the Lib Dems against us. Maybe that is a change in coalition partners we need down the line."
In the Telegraph, James Kirkup has assessed whether a Coalition with the DUP is feasible:
"The Lib Dems have 57 MPs and the DUP have eight, so swapping yellow for orange is not a direct exchange: it would only be viable if the Tories increased their numbers from today's 305 … It’s worth recalling that in the latter days of the last general election, there was talk in Tory circles of a deal with the Unionists if – as was then expected — the party ended up just inches from a Commons majority. That expectation was, of course, wrong. But could an arrangement with the Unionists return to the fore at the next election, whenever it comes?"